Tip #4 The Fishbowl
If you want to really succeed this year in the goals you’ve set for yourself, then get a fish bowl and let’s get started on this unusual technique. The fishbowl technique is based on the fact that we all love getting rewarded for good behavior. It also is based on the fact that, in normal life, not all of our good behaviors get rewarded. It’s also based on some really cool research on the science of change (checkout The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal).
- What you’ll need is a fishbowl or any other device for holding stuff like a basket or a bag or pot. It needs to be empty. If you’ve chosen your fishbowl and there’s actually fish in it, you’ll need to make a choice. Are the fish really that important? If so, choose something else.
- Now that you have your device, I want you to get a few pieces of paper and cut them (or tear them) into 3X3 inch pieces (7-8cm).
- Next, think of your goal. Let’s say your goal is to lose weight. Write down all the things you are going to say to yourself when you’ve done something to get you closer to your goal OR something you’ve avoided that gets you closer to your goal. For example, if you exercised for an hour, what would you want to hear from yourself or someone else? If you avoided having dessert, what would you want to hear from yourself or someone else? Use the small scraps of paper to write down these words of affirmation (one on each scrap) to yourself.
- Words alone won’t work as motivation so the next step is to decide on 3-4 really great rewards. Using the example above, I might select a one-hour massage as my reward. It doesn’t matter that you don’t know what you’ve done to receive this reward. The point is that it is a reward that you are giving yourself because you’ve stuck with your goal in some way. Write your rewards down – one each – on a scrap of paper.
- Now take all of those scraps of paper and fold them up and put them in the fishbowl. Mix the papers up so they are all jumbled.
- Do you have friends and family members supporting you through this goal? If so, then give them 5-15 pieces of paper. Ask them to write 1-3 rewards that THEY are going to give you for your achievements. On the other pieces of paper, ask them to write their own words of encouragement. You should have 1 reward for every 5 (or so) words of affirmation. Once they are done, ask them to fold up the papers, add them to the fishbowl and stir.
- Here’s the fun part. Every time you do those things that get you closer to your goal (or avoid temptation/bad habits), you get to select one piece of paper out of the fish bowl. You don’t know if it’s going to be a nice statement from yourself or your family/friends or if it’s going to be a reward. Your body and mind will love this process. It will continue to do the things that get you closer to your goal (and avoid the actions that take you away from your goal) because it wants to pick a slip of paper out of the fishbowl. It’s using curiosity and anticipation to keep those neurotransmitters in your brain happy. It may sound silly – but it works! And it’s really fun.
What do you have to lose? If you have children, you are teaching them a HUGELY valuable lesson. Not all your actions result in rewards but they can result in encouragement – from yourself and others.